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Partners launch a bold new plan to improve the lives of people with learning difficulty

Healthwatch Cumbria (HWC) launched its latest report ‘’What does a good life look like for people with learning difficulties in Cumbria?’’ at a symposium held earlier this week (Monday 01st October), at The People First Conference Centre, Carlisle.

Over 80 delegates attended the event; including senior health care decision makers, commissioners, providers, carers and people with a learning difficulty and their families, to consider the findings of this major HWC report.

Helen Horne, HWC Chair, and committee member with Healthwatch England, welcomed the attendees by outlining HWC’s commitment in ensuring that the findings of this major report would drive change for the future.

She also challenged the assembled delegates to consider whether delivery of “good enough” services was right?

A series of short presentations on the reports six key themes then followed, with each theme being introduced by participants from the information gathering sessions:

  • How can resources be better used to address financial pressures?
  • What can be done to help employers be less fearful of employing people
  • How can people with learning difficulties be supported to have intimate relationships
  • How can people with learning difficulties have more choice and control over their own lives
  • How can people with learning difficulties and their family/carers be more involved in the nature and delivery of services?
  • How can more support be given to people with learning difficulties in relation to travel?

This was followed by a powerful presentation by Gavin Harding, MBE a nationally renowned disability champion and equality advocate, who over the years has directly challenged, influenced and shaped service design.

John Macilwraith, Executive Director of People Services, with Cumbria County Council addressed the symposium in the afternoon taking the opportunity to outline how the Council plans to meet the challenge of improving the lives of people with a learning difficulty.

He also further outlined the role of the Learning Disability and Autism Partnership Board and how the various groups present could work with the Board to shape and develop an Action Plan closely aligned to the findings of the HWC report and the issues highlighted during the symposium.

David Blacklock, CEO of Health WC said: “ This milestone symposium brought together decision makers, commissioners, providers, carers and people with learning difficulty and their families to consider how service delivery can be best improved.

The symposium generated lots of compelling ideas, which alongside the commitment expressed by John Macilwraith on behalf of Cumbria County Council will be used by HWC as a “platform for change. As a result HWC is determined to ensure that the voices of all the people who spoke to us during this project are heard and that their experience of service delivery improves for the future.”

Cumbria County Councillor, Peter Thornton, Portfolio Holder for Health and Care Services, said: “Many people with a learning difficulty are living the lives they want to lead, living where they want to live, with who they want to live, some are employed, own their own home and have their own families, however we know that for many people with a learning difficulty their lives are not how they or the families want them to be. The Health watch report offers a timely reminder that we still have some way to go to ensure that people with a learning difficulty are living their lives as active citizens in Cumbria.’’

The Board will now feed the information from the HWC report and symposium into the development of the Action Plan to specifically consider the future development of services and support around the following points:

  • To what extent is there is an acceptance of ‘a good enough life’ rather than ‘a good life’?
  • How can people with a learning difficulty have more choices and control over their own lives?
  • How can people with a learning difficulty and their family carers be more involved in the nature and delivery of services? How can more support be provided to people with a learning difficulty in relation to; travel and receiving   support from social workers when needed
  • How can more support be offered to families and carers?
  • What can be done to help employers be less fearful of employing people with a learning difficulty?
  • How can people with a learning difficulty be supported to have intimate relationships and friendships?
  • How can even better communication between Adult Social Care (ASC) and health services be achieved?
  • How can resources be better used to address financial pressures on services and individuals?
  • How can people with a learning difficulty be better cared for by health services?

All of which will in turn enable Healthwatch Cumbria better understand what level of support those with a learning difficulty are currently receiving, actually need and what they want to help them live their best possible life going forward.

A copy of the full report can be viewed here: